Dust off the down markers and clear out the whistles — the NFL season is rapidly approaching. In my annual lowdown of our favorite local teams, I bring you the 2013 look at the Patriots, Giants and Jets. That should cover about 96 percent of the fans in our home state, leaving the other four percent in denial banking their hopes on the Dolphins, Steelers, Raiders or, in the most extreme cases, the Lions (sorry Fran Lawlor).
If you are a Patriots hater this may not be your year. Based on the talent (or lack thereof) in the AFC East the only thing keeping New England out of the playoff party would be a performance-enhancing drug scandal.
The slump-ridden Giants haven’t actually set the place on fire over the past few seasons, record-wise. It takes a little luck sometimes and they did win a Super Bowl over the mighty Pats when New York sported a 9-7 regular-season ledger. However luck is but for a season while being good is how dynasties are made.
Leadership is another attribute that can get a team over the hump to reach the postseason. The Jets barely possess enough leadership to make it out of the locker room on game day. Who else would risk a franchise quarterback in the fourth quarter of a meaningless preseason game only to have him suffer a potentially serious shoulder injury?
The Xs and Os don’t add up to a whole lot of Northeast hoopla come January.
Bill Belichick can do his best Perry Mason impersonation but the fact remains that getting rid of Wes Welker and having Aaron Hernandez indicted for murder is just a little too much distraction for any one team to overcome.
The Giants have shown a tendency to start out strong and then spiral into a slumping abyss around the bye week. New York will not be able to continue such ineptness this season and expect to make the playoffs with Washington improving and Philadelphia banging the drum of a comeback season.
The Jets parted ways with their most productive runner, injured their starting quarterback in a meaningless preseason tussle and the defense couldn’t stop a sneeze with a pillow for a handkerchief.
New England led all of football with 557 points scored last year but will be hard-pressed to duplicate that with a bulk of the receiving corps missing. Rookie Kenbrell Thompkins has shown signs of stardom and Danny Amendola could put up Welker-like numbers but the air of invincibility is gone.
Stevan Ridley is back to show that his yardage and scoring production was not just a flash in the pan. The biggest flashbulb sighting has been around newly acquired Tim Tebow. Is he for real or is he a Hollywood flop?
Numbers don’t lie. Tebow did win a Heisman Trophy at Florida, completed more 600 passes in close to 1,000 attempts for a little under 10,000 yards and 88 touchdown passes. None of this happened by accident. As a pro he has accumulated 2,422 yards passing with 17 touchdowns and has run for 989 yards with 12 touchdowns. It may not have been pretty but he did lead Denver to the playoffs with six comeback wins. Numbers don’t lie.
The Giants took a leap of faith by parting ways with Ahmad Bradshaw and are banking their running game on a couple of young guys, David Wilson and Andre Brown, neither of whom have real track records. Victor Cruz may begin the season on the shelf and the Brass let Domenik Hixson and Martellus Bennett look for a new address. That certainly weakens the passing game and puts a bull’s eye on Eli Manning’s back.
The front four of the defense, one of the best in the business, is now a shell of what it once was. Osi Umenyiora went on to greener pastures and Jason Pierre-Paul had back surgery in June. Any extended slump can be directly related to a depleted defense, which would spell the Giants’ demise.
If it weren’t for the Jets’ defense, they would have trouble fielding a team on game day as they look to break a 44-year championship drought. They got rid of their top runner and couldn’t wait to part ways with Tebow, although he did look good holding a clipboard last season. This comes from an offense last year that couldn’t break the 21-point barrier in a nine-game span when they went 3-6 and saw the season slip through their fingers.
After a promising 48-28 win on opening day it all went south for the Jets, and by now one has to wonder if Rex Ryan should be spelled “Wrecks.” It’s time to look at the true leadership of the franchise and make the proper adjustment.
Season predictions on our local favorites: The Patriots will win the AFC East because there is no other team good enough to derail them; the Giants may be out of the running if Philly and Washington start strong; and the Jets will be left taxing the runway with an offense that will struggle to move the chains.
Ken Morse is a contributed writer to the Citizen’s News.